For Grades 5-8 , week of Mar. 16, 2020

1. Corona Life Changes

The coronavirus continues to have huge impact on the lives of Americans and people around the world. Colleges and public schools have shut down, travel has been restricted and events involving large crowds have been canceled. Some of the most prominent shutdowns have come in the world of sports. NBA basketball, NHL hockey and MLS soccer have suspended their seasons, the NCAA canceled its famous “March Madness” college basketball tournaments, and Major League Baseball postponed the start of the 2020 season. The concern is that the virus can spread easily in crowds where people are packed together and can’t keep safe distances between them. Health officials recommend that people stay at least six feet apart in public places, because that is how far the virus can travel when people cough or sneeze. Unlike the flu and other viruses, the coronavirus is affecting children less than it is affecting adults. What changes has the coronavirus caused in American life? In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about effects of the virus, steps being taken to deal with those effects and challenges that remain. Use what you read to write an editorial analyzing (a.) the biggest health challenge now facing the nation and (b.) the biggest economic/business challenge — and what should be done to deal with them.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

2. Housing from Sir Charles

Before becoming a celebrity on sports TV, Charles Barkley won a lot of awards in his 16-year NBA career. Now he is planning to sell some of them to make a difference in the home town he grew up in. Barkley has announced he will sell trophies, medals and more — including his NBA MVP trophy and a gold medal he won in the Olympics — to build affordable housing in Leeds, Alabama, where he spent his childhood. A sports card and memorabilia company that Barkley works with has estimated that the MVP trophy alone could bring up to $400,000 at an auction sale, and other items could bring thousands more. Barkley says he wants to use the money to replace dilapidated homes or empty lots with affordable, environmentally sustainable houses. “I want to do something really nice for Leeds,” Barkley said. “And if I could build 10 to 20 affordable houses … it would just be a really cool thing for me.” Celebrities and sports stars often do things to help people. In the newspaper or online find and closely read a story about a star or celebrity doing this. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor explaining how the celebrity’s action helped the community, and how getting involved provided a good role model for others.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

3. Seeking Astronauts

America’s NASA space agency is making plans to land astronauts on the moon by the year 2024 — and it is looking for highly qualified people to fly the mission. NASA has opened applications for the “Artemis” moon landing program, and the competition is expected to be fierce. The last time NASA sought astronauts,18,300 people applied for 14 positions. For the first time, NASA plans to land a woman on the moon along with a male astronaut. In Greek mythology Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo, who gave his name to America’s first moon landing program. To be considered for the program applicants must be a U.S. citizen, have a bachelor’s degree in science, math or engineering, a master’s degree in engineering, math or physical, computer or biological sciences; or have done advanced Ph.D. degree work one of those fields. For the moon landing program, NASA wants astronauts who have training and skills in the STEM fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Many other professions also are looking for workers with STEM skills. In the newspaper or online study stories and ads for job openings in your state or the nation. Make a list of jobs requiring STEM skills — and which STEM skills are most in demand.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

4. Gaga for an Insect

Superstar Lady Gaga is known around the world for her outrageous and colorful costumes. The singer and actress once wore a dress made of meat, and other costumes have featured spikes, stripes, streamers and more. Gaga’s fashion flair now has made a mark on science as well as show business. A newly identified insect from the Central American nation of Nicaragua has been named after her for its bright color, pointy horns and odd physical features. The insect Kaikaia gaga is a newly identified species of treehopper, an insect group that lives in forests around the world. It was found in a collection at a museum and immediately stood out for the researcher who named it. “If there is going to be a Lady Gaga bug, it’s going to be a treehopper, because they've got these crazy horns, and they have this wacky fashion sense about them,” said researcher Brendan Morris. “They’re unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.” The discovery of new species gives scientists better understanding of the natural world and how different species evolved. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about the discovery of a new species. Write a paragraph explaining why the discovery is important and how it increases scientists’ understanding of the natural world.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

5. Secret Passageway

Harry Potter fans know all about the intrigue and appeal of secret passageways. So they would have felt right at home at the Houses of Parliament building in the European city of London, England not long ago. Planners working on a renovation of the House of Commons in the building found a secret passageway dating back 360 years. The passageway branched off a wood-paneled hallway and was detectable only by a tiny gold keyhole on the outside. When the renovation team had a key made, the door opened onto a passageway that historians believe was created around 1660 for the coronation banquet of Charles II, the king who ruled until 1685. Study of the wood timbers in the ceiling determined that the trees had been harvested in 1659, which would match the construction date. The House of Commons and the House of Lords are the two branches of England’s Parliament legislature. The discovery of the secret passageway in the Houses of Parliament building reminded many people of the Harry Potter books and movies. News events often can be the source of ideas for movies, books or TV shows. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story that could be the inspiration for such an entertainment. Write an outline for a movie or TV show inspired by the news. Then write the opening scene in the style of a screenplay.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.